Summer 2011, Vol. 29, No. 2
Mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s beginnings by exploring the massive wartime growth of the pharmacology industry. Jump forward a few decades to rapidly urbanizing New York, all the pollution that came with it, and the chemist assigned to find the culprits. Reflect on the controversial status of fluoride in the United States, meet Marie Curie, and learn the real value of silverware.
The impact of the Civil War can still be seen politically, socially, and economically, but its influence on medicine is often obscured. The growth of health sciences during the early 1860s, however, was nothing less than astonishing, resulting in new sources for drugs, a complete reorganization of the American hospital system, and the beginnings of evidence-based inquiry.
Michal Meyer reviews the Boerhaave Museum in the Netherlands.
Michal Meyer reviews the anthology Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society.
In early 1945, 50-year-old physical chemist Charles Phelps Smyth, having completed his assigned duties with the Manhattan Project, was cleared for overseas duty with the Alsos Mission. The hunt for Germany’s military secrets was on.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia's "Karabots Kids" come from populations underrepresented in the health-care field. The hope? They'll someday make up the difference.
John Hickman reviews Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.
Anne Fredrickson interviews storyteller Susan Marie Frontczak about her one-woman show, Manya: A Living History of Marie Curie, which depicts the life of the Nobel laureate from childhood to the discovery of radium.
Jennifer Dionisio reviews Lauren Redniss's Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie—A Tale of Love and Fallout.
In the early 1850s James Curtis Booth, a respected chemist and an educator in the Philadelphia area, bid farewell to his students to focus his attention on his newest role: melter and refiner of the U.S. Mint. Booth held his post ably for many years. Then, in 1884, three bars of silver bullion disappeared on his watch.
Pipe Dreams: America's Fluoride Controversy
The benefits and risks of fluoridated drinking water have been argued—in newspapers, legislatures, and scientific literature—for almost 70 years. How did a seemingly benign chemical and a near-miraculous public-health initiative spark such heated debate?
Most urban dwellers in early 19th-century British cities found themselves increasingly separated from the sources of their food and medicine. In response, middlemen forming impersonal supply chains found myriad ways to debase important products for profit. Though the villain was often chemical, fortunately so was the hero—in the form of analytical chemists fighting to expose dishonest practices.
That Beautiful Theory
Joseph Black trained as a doctor, but his significant scientific discoveries were in chemistry. Black, one of the first to realize that air was composed of many gases, isolated carbon dioxide, discovered latent heat, and contributed to the Industrial Revolution and the intellectual life of the Scottish Enlightenment.
The Periodic Table Printmaking Project
Some elements lend themselves more easily to the limelight, but in CHF’s Elemental Matters exhibit artists celebrate even the most obscure. The Periodic Table Printmaking Project is composed of 118 individual prints by 97 artists from 29 states, one U.S. territory, and 7 countries.
The Smell Detectives
During the 1860s and 1870s New York City experienced unprecedented growth, both in industry and population. As the growing stench of tanneries and slaughterhouses mixed with that of garbage and sewage, citizens brought their worries on air quality to the Board of Health, which dispatched chemist Charles Frederick Chandler to investigate.
The Thin Green Line
The feud between William Crookes and Claude-Auguste Lamy over the newly discovered element thallium rested on the very definition of discovery.
One of this year’s Oscar-nominated documentaries was the controversial Gasland, in which money, science, and politics play a role in the development of natural-gas reserves in the eastern United States.
The frequent emphasis on Marie Curie’s gender and marriage packaged her unconventional life into a story more suitable for public consumption: woman—which was to say, wife—first, scientist second. A 1904 caricature from Vanity Fair, part of CHF’s Fisher Collection, is a striking example of the role images played in creating the Curie myth.